A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
For one year, 365 days, this blog will address the Common Core Standards from the perspective of creating an alternate, ambient learning environment for math. Ambient is defined as “existing or present on all sides, an all-encompassing atmosphere.” And ambient music is defined as: “Quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times.”
Why ambient? A math teaching style that’s whole and all encompassing, with themes that repeat many times through the years, is most likely to be effective and successful. Today’s standard will be listed in blue, followed by its ambient counterpart.
Measurement and Data 1.MD
Measure lengths indirectly and by iterating length units.
2. Express the length of an object as a whole number of length units, by laying multiple copies of a shorter object (the length unit) end to end; understand that the length measurement of an object is the number of same-size length units that span it with no gaps or overlaps. Limit to contexts where the object being measured is spanned by a whole number of length units with no gaps or overlaps.
Perhaps the most important element here is that the lesson or activity is themed. All too often lessons are presented on their own and out of context. This is in fact a predominant feature of an abstract rather than concrete approach, and as such is self-defeating. The child wants to know the world and the things in it, and this manifests as a deep need for connection. That’s why everything presented or taught must be in context and proceed from the whole to parts. Alienation from others, nature, and the self may be the predominant disease of our times, for which the cure is connection and a holistic approach.
Nature walks are a perfect venue for this sort of measuring. Gather some acorns, then find a downed oak branch. Line the acorns up on the branch (upside down on their caps may be easier), touching with no gaps. This requires some delicate balancing and is an opportunity to hone fine motor skills. After covering the length of the branch, count the acorns. Say, “This branch is __ acorns long. It is just a small part of a mighty oak tree (point one out) that was once so small it slept all curled up inside an acorn.”
One of my daughter’s first grade knitting projects was a small sitting cat, made from a simple knitted square. Knitting fosters right-left brain balance, develops focus and dexterity, and not least, builds self esteem through creating something both useful and beautiful. Knitting can also be an excellent application of this measurement standard: counting the stitches in a row or counting the number of rows needed to make the finished square.
Here’s how to make the cat:
knit a 6 inch square
fold it in half and whip-stitch the top and side, leaving the bottom open
take a small stitch on both sides of the very top to form 2 triangles (the ears)
stuff the cat with wool or cotton batting leaving the bottom open so the cat sits upright
finger knit a collar, about 10 inches long, and tie it in a bow around the cat’s neck MEOW ; )
As always, it’s the movement, story, and art that win the math day! Knowledge ensues in an environment dedicated to imaginative, creative knowing, where student and teacher alike surrender to the ensuing of that knowledge as a worthy goal.